Ravens close workouts with an audible

OWINGS MILLS - Instead of orchestrating a standard dress rehearsal to close a final minicamp, the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff called an audible. Because of nagging injuries, a few key absences, an assortment of nickel and dime packages and a two-minute drill, the Ravens followed a liberal substitution pattern as veterans camp closed. Particularly on defense, the Ravens kept shifting in different personnel during the last formal assembly until training camp next month at McDaniel College.

"You want to make it as hard a decision as possible for the coaches about who to play," said safety Will Demps, a rookie starter last season "You want to be one of the best 11 players on the field and that means proving yourself every day to the coaches."

The secondary was in flux with cornerbacks Corey Fuller and Tom Knight watching from the sidelines and franchise player Chris McAlister missing the voluntary camp. Knight's hamstring is bothering him again.

Reserve Alvin Porter and return specialist Lamont Brightful took most of the work at cornerback, and both disrupted passing lanes with Porter intercepting one pass.

"If I'm not in there when they need me, I want it to be for an undisclosed reason, not because I don't know what I'm doing out there," Brightful said. "I want to learn this stuff because I don't want to embarrass myself or the team."

Even though starters Ray Lewis and Ed Hartwell took part in a great portion of the session, Bernardo Harris and Bart Scott saw the majority of the snaps at inside linebacker.

With outside linebacker Peter Boulware away from the training complex for personal reasons, rookie Terrell Suggs and Cornell Brown played opposite each other on the first unit.

And Gary Baxter, who started last year at corner, continued to operate at free safety with Chad Williams, Demps and Anthony Mitchell subbing for him and Ed Reed.

"I think ultimately this gives us a lot of depth and experience, so if anyone goes down the next man up there doesn't slack off and can bring something to the table, too," Scott said. "It's going to be a battle this year with guys pushing themselves across the board at each position."

Offensively, Ethan Brooks substituted for All-Pro Jonathan Ogden at left tackle and Jason Thomas replaced Edwin Mulitalo at left guard midway through practice. Casey Rabach spent time at center, left guard and right guard this week.

Quarterbacks Chris Redman, Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright looked sharp in their last audition before reporting to Westminster for training camp.

Although Redman expressed confidence in remaining the starter ahead of Boller, a first-round pick, and in his knowledge of the offense, saying, "I feel I can take this team wherever we need to be," Ravens coach Brian Billick was noncommittal in declaring much of a pecking order when asked if Redman was in position to start.

Billick's main focus was on preparation for the club's season opener against the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

"What I've been trying to stress to them since the first minicamp is we've got to pick up on a dead sprint the first day of camp," Billick said. "This is different than last year. We're going to go to Pittsburgh and compete against what will probably be picked as one of the top teams in the AFC. "We can't not know what we're about and start to develop as a team when the season starts. That's got to start with the first practice of training camp."

NOTES: Wide receiver Ron Johnson, a novice fisherman, won the Ravens' annual fishing derby by catching the longest fish: 36 ¾. Kicker Matt Stover finished second with quarterback Chris Redman and nose guard Kelly Gregg, the defending champion, coming in fourth. "Coach Billick said, 'Again, Kelly came up a little short," Redman said. … Wide receiver Travis Taylor was absent for the second consecutive day for personal reasons. … Special teams coach Gary Zauner said it's going to be a two-man race for the job of kickoff specialist between J.R. Jenkins and Derrick Frost. Punter Dave Zastudil and kicker Matt Stover aren't going to be candidates. … Linebacker Ed Hartwell is hosting a football and cheerleading clinic at Clifton Park on Saturday between 11:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. … Defensive back Gary Baxter is visiting the Garrison Police Station for its officer appreciation day on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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